Congregations' smaller racial groups feel less belonging and are less involved, Baylor study finds

December 11, 2013

People who are part of a congregation's largest racial group are more likely to feel they belong and be more involved-- regardless of whether their group is barely half or nearly all of the members, a Baylor University study shows.

The study reveals how difficult it is not only to create a multiracial congregation, but also to maintain a thriving church or synagogue of more than one race, said Baylor sociologist Brandon C. Martinez, the study's lead author.

Study findings, based on analysis of data from 75,264 individuals from 389 congregations, are published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion in the article "Race, Belonging, and Participation in Religious Congregations." Those individuals were respondents in the 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey, a national sample of U.S. congregations and their attendees. (Find this story on our website: http://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=136550 )

The findings "were sobering, but they weren't unexpected," said study co-author Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences. "If you visit a multiracial church and peek inside a Sunday school class, you're more likely to see a homogeneous group than in the main service."

Baylor researchers found that:"Those who are not in the largest racial group are less embedded in their congregations," said Martinez, a doctoral candidate in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences. "And there's a huge debate: Are they not becoming involved in smaller groups because they don't feel comfortable? Or do they not feel comfortable because they don't participate?"

He said that while the desire for diversity is "a popular rallying cry in American religion," previous research has shown that an estimated nine of 10 U.S. congregations contain more than 80 percent of one racial group, and almost half of the congregations in America are completely of one race. Even as neighborhoods diversify, local congregations typically do not.

Research also has shown that even when congregations become more diverse, there is a greater turnover rate among members of smaller racial groups.

"There's a real challenge for leaders to reach out and incorporate those who feel on the fringes, so that all members have deeper friendships and commitment," Dougherty said. "That doesn't seem to occur as a natural process. It requires leaders who set a vision and help people forge relationships across racial lines.

"It's a tricky thing," he said. "Religious leaders can say from the pulpit, 'We need to be more welcoming.' But until the people in the congregation embrace that, things are not going to change . . . And the burden of making a congregation diverse always falls more heavily

on members of the smaller racial groups than on those who say 'Come join us.'" A vital issue for future research is whether racial differences in commitment are moderated by congregation size, Martinez said.

"Is racial integration more likely in diverse smaller congregations than in diverse congregations of thousands?" he asked. "Continued research is necessary to determine if and how congregations are capable of helping solve longstanding racial divisions in society."
-end-


Baylor University

Related Leaders Articles from Brightsurf:

How narcissistic leaders infect their organizations' cultures
Like carriers of a virus, narcissistic leaders ''infect'' the very cultures of their organizations, leading to dramatically lower levels of collaboration and integrity at all levels--even after they are gone.

How scientific leaders can enact anti-racist action in their labs
A new paper provides 10 steps that principal investigators (PIs) and research group leaders can follow to help cultivate anti-racist professional and learning environments.

Children hold leaders primarily responsible, not entitled
Researchers explored how young children conceptualize leadership, specifically whether they view leaders primarily as more entitled individuals or more responsible individuals, relative to non-leaders.

Study: New leaders emerge as organizations go to virtual work spaces
The study found that in face-to-face gatherings, team members value those with 'classic' leadership characteristics, such as extroversion and intelligence, but in virtual settings, those qualities take a backseat to those who take action.

Leaders call for 'Moonshot' on nutrition research
Leading nutrition and food policy experts outline a bold case for strengthening federal nutrition research in a live interactive session as part of NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN).

Randomly selecting leaders could prove to be a remedy for hubris
History shows us that power tends to corrupt; a team of Swiss and German researchers have recently examined historical examples of large-scale business fraud and misconduct at the highest-levels of government in order to highlight how leaders sometimes lose all sense of morality.

Infants expect leaders to right wrongs, study finds
Infants 17 months of age expect leaders -- but not others -- to intervene when one member of their group transgresses against another, a new study reveals.

Strongman leaders make for weak economies, study finds
Autocratic leaders are often credited with purposefully delivering good economic outcomes, but new research challenges that long-held assumption.

Government and NHS leaders could do more to encourage collaborative relationships between healthcare
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a briefing note outlining the factors that can contribute to disagreements between parents and healthcare staff about the care and treatment of critically ill babies and young children.

In small groups, people follow high-performing leaders
Researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering have cracked the code on how leaders arise from small groups of people over time.

Read More: Leaders News and Leaders Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.